THE REE-VAHS! – Geordieland
www.theree-vahs.co.uk [Released 09.06.14]
The Ree-Vahs! Hail from County Durham and carry on the tradition of North Durham singing, although it’s not that heavily accented and you can listen to the lyrics easily enough.
Andy Loan has a nice, melodic voice and the band tell a good tale or two. Lead single ‘No One Naas Us Anymore’ is the story of Andy Loan returning to his childhood haunts and no-one recognising him.
The title track pokes gentle fun at Newcastle’s choice of destination for hen parties and ‘Beautiful Girl’ could be Del Amitri. In fact that band is a good musical comparison mixing traditional folk instruments like mandolin and squeezebox with a strong pop sensibility.
An album with a strong regional musical flavour, that appeals to lovers of folk/traditional music. ***1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
TARJA – Left In The Dark
earMUSIC [Released 04.07.14]
Another month, another Tarja release it almost feels like! ‘Colours In The Dark’ was her latest studio album released last year, then there was live symphonic album released in the past month or so and now we have this, a mix of demos and live songs. Also a treat for fans that won the competition to create artwork for this album and such was the high quality of entries there are ten winning submissions featured on the cover and inlay booklet.
So what do you get on this collection? Two rather good acoustic versions of ‘500 Letters’ and ‘Until Silence’ recorded for a radio show. The demos are interesting as ‘Victim Of Ritual’ has none of heaviness of the final album version, whereas the demo version of ‘Lucid Dreamer’ features heavier guitar riffs than the recorded version.
Fascinating listening to the demo progression of ‘Never Enough’; Tarja’s vocals are backed mainly by guitar/piano and later into the song the powerhouse drums. Not everyone likes to see how songs form but if you do this album is a fascinating insight and offers many variations on the finished songs.
For her many fans this is a must have of that there is no doubt, for those new to her music maybe start on a studio album first or one of her excellent live albums. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
CROWN OF GLORY – King For A Day
Fastball Music [Released 16.05.14]
Swiss power/melodic metal band who released their debut album, ‘A Deep Breath Of Life’, back in 2008 return with an enjoyable listen. The sound you know will be good as Dennis Ward handles production and that also means a lot of glorious harmonies, both guitar and vocal.
The first listen nothing really reached and out grabbed me, however after a few more listens songs like ‘Saviour’ fair blow the listener away. A mighty melodic beast of a tune, with its snazzy keyboard solo, immense chorus, sultry backing vocals from Simone Christinat and lots of guitar. Vocalist Hener Muther has a decent vocal range and plenty of power needed for this sort of metal singing.
‘One Fine Day’ recalls those German power metal masters Freedom Call and the title track sees the band up the pomp with grandiose keys and thunderous drums.
There are a lot of power/melodic bands out there vying for your attention and Crown Of Glory have done enough to warrant further investigation. A few festival and live appearances should further spread the word on their music. ***1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
AVALON STEEL – Ascension (EP)
Full disclosure, the current members of Avalon Steel are guys I consider great friends, and are a band that I have followed since its early days. Those facts aside I present to you their very first release, the EP Ascension. I intend to examine it from as objective a standpoint as I can, and look at it from the perspective of the music itself, and not by the men behind its creation.
The very first thing that struck me about the three tracks found on this EP was actually hearing them for the very first time without it being at a live show. Interpreting music live vs. studio is a decidedly different experience. Going in I already knew the songs, but upon closer inspection I realized that I really didn’t know them as well as I thought. In a live aspect (especially in regards to loud shows) you miss a lot of the nuanced stuff going on in the individual songs as well as things going on with each instrument. Let’s start from looking at it as a genre. Musically what Avalon Steel represent is an old school mentality of early American power metal, thrash, and NWOBHM leanings. So many bands come to mind as I listen to their songs (Cirith Ungol, Raven, Shok Paris, etc) yet they don’t sound precisely as any of those mentioned. Strong, driving riffs backed by a powerful rhythm section topped with a truly unique voice meld together to create good metal songs that longtime fans of old school metal will relish with every listen. The EP opens with “The Winter King” a straight forward homage to old school metal. It has already taken on a life of its own live within the fan base, and it’s clear why: it’s a damn catchy song. It’s followed by “Curse of the Doomwraiths” which stays on even ground with the previous song. There are some doom leanings, and of course the lyrical imagery nailed home by Tommy’s powerful voice get your head banging. I love how he goes from a low register into a great wail. The EP closes with “Trapped In A Nightmare” which is another great track. It’s closer to thrash than the other songs, though still fits perfectly with the other songs.
If there is one issue people will have with this EP is that it is very much an old school album. Very little of it would be considered new or cutting edge. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something fresh, this isn’t it. However, it is a throwback sound to a style of metal not often represented, and for me that makes this such an awesome album. There are moments where you can certainly tell that the band are still getting a feel for their music and working out their abilities. Again, not a bad thing, but so many metal fans can be harsh towards young bands who may not be polished. Listening to Avalon Steel’s Ascension excites me much the same way I first got in to metal in the 80’s. It’s raw, yet holds so much potential, and is just the tip of the iceberg for what this band is capable of and will do in the future. Not to mention the fact that they are super great guys. ****
Review by Chris Martin
SEVEN THORNS – II
Sonic Revolution [Released 07.03.14]
Been awhile since their enjoyable debut released back in 2010 but Seven Thorns are back and it’s business as usual as this second album picks up nicely where the debut album left off. They play classic power metal, nothing to flash and fancy, yet they have a good ear for a tune like ‘Revelation’, a power metal anthem if ever there was one.
Vocalist Gustav Blide is one of the better singers around in the power/melodic metal genre at the moment. He can belt it out on ‘Eye Of The Storm’ and then switch to power ballad mode on ‘You’re Not Brave (If You Are Not Scared)’, a song that also brings out the band’s love of Queen particularly on the vocal arrangements and soaring guitar solo.
They even do an Abba cover, ‘Mama Mia’ which is good fun and good I guess for getting in listeners who wouldn’t normally listen to them. Abba seem to be the band of choice to cover by metal band’s as Fozzy recently tackled ‘SOS’.
If you enjoyed the band’s debut album safe to say you will like this album and if you have not heard them before give them a try. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
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Power Plays w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)
MILES NIELSEN AND THE RUSTED HEARTS Hands Up (indie)
THE FARGO RAILROAD COMPANY Something In The Water (indie)
THE DARK ELEMENT If I Had A Heart (Frontiers)
LIBERTY LIES A Thousand People (indie)
DIRTY SHIRLEY Here Comes The King (Frontiers)
CARRY THE CROWN Runaway (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 WORK OF ART Exhibits (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SIGN X Like A Fire (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 JACK BROADBENT Moonshine Blue (Creature Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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